Some Interesting Data Findings

April 17, 2008

Japan has rebased its industrial production data to 100=2005 from 100=2000. Revisions caused by such a rebasing usually do not modify the basic trend as much as in this instance. At the end of March, February output using the old base year was reported to have fallen 1.2% after a drop of 2.2% the month before. That left the average output in the first two months of 2008 2.4% below its mean level in the fourth quarter of 2007. Using the new base year, production is reportede to have advanced 1.6% in February and to be 0.1% higher in January-February than in 4Q. Since August, industrial production has posted alternating increases and declines, so officials may keep the view that the trend is “flat.” But it would not be entirely correct. The last quarter to show a drop in output was 1Q07, and officials projections for March point to a 0.5% non-annualized rise between 4Q07 and 1Q08.

In the United States, new jobless claims typically exceed 400K per month. The total last week was 372K, and such averaged 376K per week during the four weeks through April 12th. That was almost identical to the 375K mean in the previous four weeks to March 15th and not very much higher than 362K per week in the four weeks to February 16th. The level is sub-recessionary and the trend for this measure of the layoff rate has hardly deteriorated. The thinking here is that there will be a recession, but the case for a severe downturn is not conclusive. For further perspective, the unemployment rate in the 1930’s soared to 25%. It’s presently at 5.1%. Analysts who’ve used the D-for depression word do a disservice to the memory of the 1930’s.



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